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Brisbane Powerhouse



John Cage

John Cage


John Cage


Isorhythmos: Music for Percussion & Keyboards

Date Sun 28 July, 8.00pm
Venue Powerhouse Theatre
Costs $18 Full / $12 Conc.

Vincent PLUSH - The Summoning of the Sun [1999]. For antiphonal percussion.

Peter GENA - Beethoven in Soho [1980]. For two amplified grand pianos, in unison, and electric bass guitar.

William DUCKWORTH - Gathering Together [1992] and Revolution [1993]. For two keyboards and percussion.

Intermission during which some ‘musique d’ameublement’ will be played :

Erik SATIE - Pieces froides [1897] and Nouvelles pieces froides [1907]. For solo piano.

John CAGE - Living Room Music [1940]. For a quartet of percussionist-speakers.

Kelly TRENCH - Dance Party [2002].
For percussionists, voices and audience

Following the performance, please join us in the SpinBar for a post-concert Latin turntable-party.


Isorhythmos: David Montgomery leader, Andrew Knox, lounge lizard, John Parker, Leah Scholes.

With: Jenni Flemming and Kylie Davidson, keyboards, Robert Davidson, electric bass guitar, DJTamara, Sound Manipulation.

And: Stephen Wittington, solo piano, playing the Saties.

The Summoning of the Sun [1999]

Vincent PLUSH [b.1950, Adelaide, South Australia]
For percussion ensemble

This short work is the sixth section of a much larger composition, Northern Lights, a community composition written for the city of Mackay, in central Queensland, as part of the Queensland Biennial Festival of Music in 1999.

At the time, I had been back in Australia for only a few months, after an absence of almost 18 years in the USA. The last three years of that time I had lived in Seattle and had grown to love its rugged landscapes, its tolerance of multicultural diversity, its unrelenting rain and feeling of being close to the earth. Part of this may have been due to the fact that I lived quite close to a Native American ceremonial site at Discovery Park, high above the banks of the Puget Sound. On several occasions, I caught various rituals and performances there. One morning, at dawn, I experienced the welcoming of the Sun, a ritual traditionally enacted at the end of the long gray winter in the Pacific Northwest.

A legion of drummers, each with two drums, surrounded the site, and began to pound out a constant throbbing rhythm, broken by odd accents. Slowly, as the volume and intensity rose, those accents came coming closer together to form a kind of terrace of contracting riccochet-steps. The sound of this thunderous 'drumming circle' began to enfold and spiral around the site, as the drumming grew to a frenzy to scare away the last vestiges of a tired and ragged winter.

The Summoning of the Sun , lifted directly from a single page of this score, can be performed by any number of drummers, surrounding an audience, over any duration of time. Try to listen 'inside' the music, to catch the accents as they contract and merge together to create other acoustic patterns within the resonance of the performing space. VPP

Beethoven in SoHo [1980]

Peter GENA [b.1946, Chicago, Illinois]
For two unison amplified pianos and electric bass guitar

If he were alive today, Beethoven would have a loft in lower Manhattan rather than a high-rise apartment uptown on Riverside Drive or West End Avenue.

An artist learns from history whether his or her work evolves from tradition, or deviates from it. The academician usually creates a model through theoretical analysis and imitates style, or safely draws from experimental ideas and interprets them into a style, thus establishing an ‘experimental tradition.’ The experimental artist, however, is aware that the analysis of art has little to do with the act of creating art. That is, we cannot successfully incorporate new ideas into our work unless these ideas are generated out of our own process. We observe how composers have dealt with compositional issues; we are not merely ‘lusting in our hearts for older music.’

New ideas are born out of either our knowledge or our ignorance of everything that has happened. [To do what he did, Satie must have known nothing. . . or everything.] In Beethoven in SoHo, I steal all of the surface material from his Piano Sonata, Op. 54. I tried to fuse my ongoing interest in sound-continuum with the gradual unfolding of melodic and harmonic events that exist inherently in the order of repeated fragments. Hence, while the original material approaches abstraction, the perception of form emanates as an issue of process. PG

Gathering Together [1992] and Revolution [1993]

William DUCKWORTH [b.1943, North Carolina]
For keyboards and percussion

This is a two-part work in 93 sections, scored for mallet percussion instruments, drums and keyboards. The idea for the piece came from almost simultaneous commissions from the Ars Ludi ensemble in Rome and Essential Music in New York: two groups with not only a similar instrumentation, but a compatible philosophy as well.

Gathering Together, written for Ars Ludi, is scored for two synthesizer/electronic keyboards and two mallet percussionists. In 62 sections in an ABCDE form, it uses variations on John Cage's speech rhythms from The Future of Music : Credo [1937] to generate most of the basic rhythms of the work. Composed over June and July 1992, it was premiered by Ars Ludi in Rome in September that year.

Revolution was written for Essential Music in January 1993. It is scored for two grand pianos, amplified and in unison, and four percussionists playing unpitched instruments, mainly drums. Its 31 sections form an ABCBA pattern. The basic rhythms are developed around Cage's musical rhythms from Credo in US [1942], overlapped with slowly unfolding variations on rhythms taken from a variety of styles of currently popular music.

From the beginning, Gathering Together/Revolution was conceived as one large composition comprising two independent pieces, and there are a number of connections between the two works. The most obvious is the timbral scheme. This takes the keyboards from marimba and vibraphone sounds, through synthesizer sounds to, finally in Revolution, acoustic piano sounds. Simultaneously, the percussion explore several categories of pitched mallet sounds, before moving to unpitched drumming, then to non-Western percussion, and finally to the sounds of "found" instruments, before returning to drums at the close. The result is a sonic sweep through the two works from highly synthesized to acoustic piano sounds in the keyboards, and mallet to unpitched "found" sounds in the percussion. WD

Pieces froides [1897] and Nouvelles pieces froides [1907]

During intermission, some Musique d’ameublement [“Furniture music”] by …

Erik SATIE [1866-1925]
Pieces froides [1897]
Airs a faire fuir
Danses de travers
Nouvelles pieces froides [1907?]
I. Sur un mur
II. Sur un arbre
III. Sun un pont

Approximately ten years separate these two sets of pieces, sharing the same title of “Cold Pieces”. Each contains Satie’s ‘holy trinity’ of three miniatures, related in many ways, but thrown off-balance in typically original ways.

The first set of pieces divides in two – Tunes to Make You Run Away and Crooked Dances. Like the earlier Gymnopedies [1888], they are the same piece, viewed, like a Cubist sculpture, from different angles. The second of the three Airs is a setting of the English folksong, The Keel-Row, also used by Debussy!

Similarly, the first two pieces of the Nouvelles are actually the same piece composed twice over. In each, the same eight-bar theme is stated three times but with different harmonies. The textures are different: the block chords of On a Wall are smoothed into the arpeggios of On a Tree. The third piece, On a Bridge, bears little resemblance to its predecessors and is a demonstration of the invertible counterpoint Satie studied at the Schola Cantorum. It ends with a whole-tone passage, either an hommage or coup at Debussy!

Living Room Music [1939-40]

John CAGE [1912-1992]
For four percussionist – speakers

Echoing Satie’s “furniture music”, this short, six minute work uses “found object instruments" that might be located in a living room: furniture, magazines, bottles and glasses. Writing in Wireless Imagination [1992] Geoffrey Kahn sees its origins in “the domestic sphere, now vacated by the petit-bourgeois piano, presented as a site for musical production rather than mere reception". Completed in 1940, Living Room Music is a suite in four movements and belongs to that period of Cage’s work where structure was still important to him. The text of the spoken section is by Gertrude Stein.

Dance Party

Dr Kelly Trench has not provided an annotation for her new Dance Party. Quixotically, she has suggested that “Nature should be left to take Her course….”


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